“There is a cop inside each of us. He must be killed.”
-wall graffiti, Paris, May ’68
AGAINST UNIFORMED AUTHORITY
Yesterday on my trip to salvage(liberate) bicycles from the clutches of predominately white institutions and the disposability culture of wealthy bourgie students. I (afro indigenous trans femme) with 2 cis het men(1 black) comrades encountered and had a brush with exercises of institutional power.
Upon getting on a bus that costs more than it actually should to go to a college that’s no longer in session, with very little money that we scrounged up between ourselves to get on the bus, my black comrade starts to eat some bagged fruit he brought with him for the trip. Somewhere in the back of my head I thought it might spark attention from the bus driver though we were sitting in the back of the bus. But since I’ve eaten on the bus billions of times I, instead of telling him my worries, ask for a nectarine and joined in on the succulent delights of this unguilty pleasure. My other YT comrade then sees our quiet feasting and joins in. A fit elder black man across from us pulls out a bag of Fritos and begins to chow.
Moments later the disgruntled bus driver addresses all of us with a stern certainty of authoritarian tone and says,
“I’m gonna tell you all this nicely once… you can’t eat on this bus…”
Surprised, we all quizzically look at each other and decide to stop eating. The elder black man with a white baseball cap with a black star and crescent moon symbol on his hat points out the strangeness of such a request. I tell him that the bus driver is just exercising whatever authority he “thinks” he has. The black man with the cap says he agrees with me one hundred percent and that he’s had a somewhat similar experience recently on an Amtrak train where a white conductor decided to be extremely sarcastic and rude with him upon his getting on the Amtrak and how he openly called it out as an act of aggression and affront to him being a grown ass man.
Though I didnt agree with some of the contention around him saying that he wanted to be treated like a real man and referencing how old he is and how he has kids (so these ageist requirements demand respect) I still felt the compassion to empathize with him being talked down to by a white persyn in a professional position, as a black man. He said he really lost it upon referencing all of these things and the conductor claimed that he demanded respect cause he served this country, turning their exchange it into a contest of who should be demanded more respect and based off of service to an oppressive institutions. So the black man with the white cap says he thought it was interesting that the Amtrak conductor brought that up to him, not entirely unprovoked because the symbology of his cap is a reference to the Nation of Islam which he says he belonged to for decades.
We later find out the man’s name is Reginald and he talks and talks our ears off with much interest and attention on our end with his stories, experiences and ideas.
It was a mutually refreshing encounter coming across an elder black stranger that we bonded with through frivolous exercises in power by our bus driver over unlawful eating. He talks unfavorably about the US government and imperialism and how it never intend[ed] to work with us, but just exploits us.
I then add that all autonomous direct actions are either squashed or coopted like the Black Panther’s breakfast program was and why schools serve breakfast today. He then smiles and says I must do a lot of reading and that he was part of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in the ’60s! And begins to share with us the stories of war and routine while we share with him tiny bits of information about what we know and deconstruct regarding the State and hxstorically sustained white supremacy’s exploits. I then give him a Black Autonomy Movement zine and he excitedly asks if he can keep it and rejoices as I tells him yes.
The great part of, what sometimes felt like preaching, was him talking about Malcom X’s words. And how Malcom warned us all about the very things that are happening right now. With the eradication of black and brown life. The automation of the workforce and how the Ku Klux Klan traded their robes in for police uniforms as cops, for black robes as judges, and for suits and ties as business men. Pointing out the insidiousness of this country’s inherent white supremacy unseen and unremembered, but felt by established social relations facilitated through pervasive institutions.
It’s important to note his analysis on the uniform and what it does to people who will take an institutional oath to others who dawn similar uniform. That this is the psychological trickery and subordination to such a coercion conformity. Somewhere during all of the interesting stories of his endeavors as a Panther, the bus temporarily stops and 2 private security guards in blue uniform get on the bus armed with guns…
Point of Contact
They approach the back of the bus and tell us that the bus driver is requesting the black man(my comrade who provided our fruit) in the back who continued eating to get off the bus because there’s absolutely no eating on the bus. As we, at first, plea and say its not that serious and we’ll stop eating; the dudes in security uniform disagree and tell us that its a policy that the driver has to enforce. I then say that my friend is diabetic and he’s got to eat because he could go into shock if he doesn’t and that the driver should consider people with those needs.
I understand the dis-ableism of this lie, but I really wanted to know if that had ever been taken into account on their end when people do eat, regarding the necessity of eating for some and during prolonged periods of departure.
An armed security guard asks my comrade for proof of ailment, so my comrade replies with,
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN? I AM THE PROOF!! IS THE DOCUMENTATION ME? OR AM I ME??”
They stand puzzled.
The feeling I get is like the all too familiar stings of ‘negrophobia’ or anti-blackness. How the non black driver tells the mostly black group of people at the back of the bus to not eat food on ‘his’ bus and then he’s gonna get private security to tell my comrade who admittedly continued to eat after he was told not to, to get off the bus because of it?
In frustration I then tell Reginald that the driver is only doing this because he’s in a given position of power and that my comrade subtly disregarded it and that’s all this situation is. Is an exercise in granted authority and power. So Reginald says he agrees and also pleas with the armed security guards not turn this into a thing. But they robotically press on with the excuse that
“it’s policy that drivers can and have to enforce”
More people on the bus start becoming frustrated with our refusal to get off the bus, and how the bus driver isn’t continuing on his bus route, but some people took notice in the issue regarding our story with my comrade’s diabetes excuse and how blood sugar levels had to be addressed and how this was an all around bullshituation. The private security were acting as armed military messengers for the bus driver. He never intended to engage with us because he didnt have to because his institutional position grants him this access to armed military coercive forces. So we speak our piece to them and they again leave to address the rest of our concerns to the driver who’s standing outside of the bus.
The armed security officers come in a final time and say that the sheriffs have been called and were now on their way to handle the situation. Overcome with rage I stood and dashed out of the bus, almost knocking over the security guard to confront the bus driver and his internalized anti-blackness and fuckery. Screaming at the top of my lungs I begin to explain the gravity of the situation to the driver that calling on the police on a black man for refusing to get off of ‘his’ bus for eating is an exercise in dis-ableism, anti blackness and white supremacy(Fascism). And that he can go fuck himself with his power trip and we can wait on the next bus.
To my utter dismay a black womyn bus driver, dawned in bus driver uniform, says she doesn’t want any of this non sense on her bus and we aint getting on her bus either because I’ve now turned it into a scene and that it has nothing to do with race.
So I tell her that she has to know how often black people are killed by the police by now and for bullshit reasons like this, whilst saying fuck you to our original bus driver between engaging with her and letting her know that this is about race because our material reality is that when police get called they escalate all situation towards violence because that is all they know and are trained to do and that this man’s hatred for black people is so great that he’d call a cop on a black man for eating on a bus! She stubbornly showed allegiance to her uniform instead of my comrade under impending threat of police violence and promised that we wouldn’t be getting on her bus either.
At this point Reginald gets off the bus and with much respect and concern tells my comrades to “calm her down”(referring to me) and gives us $4 to just catch another bus. And I point out the irony of the situation in relation to the conversation we just had about the police to the ex black panther, but he says this isn’t worth you all getting arrested. So with that bit of knowledge from our elder, we take the money, but the armed security tells us that we cant leave now because the sheriffs are on their way. So I tell the bus driver
“FFFFfuck you! And you ‘enjoy’ the rest of your anti black day!”
and pass by the black bus driver and say
“good bye, sell out!”
and turn around and throw up a Black Power Fist at Reginald as we exit the terminal.
Luckily by the grace of resistance culture and ancestral synchronistic rage we see a bus immediately that is heading towards our destination and we catch it as soon as we get to the lower level of the station, and thanks to Reginald, we have just the right amount of bus fair to even get on the bus.
While on the bus we see 2 sheriff cars pulling into the bus station as our bus leaves the terminal making for an unplanned yet prompt exit in our favor or as some other comrades would like to call ‘magick’.
Reflections On What I Learned From This Bullshituation
It’s interesting how the State organizes minds and bodies. Upon more thorough discussion and reevaluation of our contact with the state and established authority I and other comrades draw to the conclusion that authority institutionally granted affects the psyches of individuals that tend to find varying ways to legitimize its own existence and role. Without these reasons the hegemonic power and legitimacy may fade away by these critical interventions and questions to that which establishes said role.
The uniform is an essential component of a symbolic aesthetic that promises libidinal allegiance to the institution. Every aspect of what the elder black panther comrade said was true regarding the dawning of a uniform actively stripping away at autonomy. The reason why some of us have experience with non white officer’s often being more brutal is this fight for recognition within and to hold fast to their positions in an anti black white supremacist structure or institution. They’ll often go harder because there is even more pressure to perform a practice of anti-blackness and white supremacy or they’ll lose their given positions. The State thrives on this rugged individualism.
To expand on how the state legitimizes itself. It is dependent on varying layers of imposed conflict that suggests a State sanctioned solution. The State and it’s actors will perpetually create reasons for it’s necessity and “legitimacy”. In this regard all institutions compliment one another. The seen, heard and enacted allegiance is with the granted authorization and its own survival. But it’s interesting how since the State coordinates almost every social interaction, how all of our interpersynal dynamics are influenced by its logics, language and reason.
I see this authoritative dynamism at play even within organizing as it’s become political orthodoxy. The best way an organization can organize people and take advantage of the peoples tiers of subordination beneath interlaced social hierarchies is to assign a role or a title that establishes particular or specialized clout. Unless there is a critical systemic analyses on power relations it is hard to resist the title and its many benefits that amass social cultural capital.
This encounter wasn’t an instance in isolation. It is an example of no escape to speak of from this social war on all accounts.
DeCruitment from this Statist mentality and DeLegitimization of its hegemony, power, and rationale is the perpetual goal. It is what comrade Bobby London means when they claim that since the State is inherently anti-black, then black people must continue to be inherently anti-state. By that, we must be anti-state and pro autonomy to actually continue to survive and thrive as people. While any non blacks whom hold allegiance to the State apparatus are also benefiting from and propagating anti-blackness.
What had me really stewing on this encounter was the affect our responses had taken on the space in disrupting the code and routine of unquestioned and stagnant hierarchical social relations.
Several people had gotten off the bus and a younger man in particular had gotten off and was compelled to show us solidarity by mentioning how fucked up that driver had been and chose not to continue to commute on that bus.
These small acts of solidarity in response to disrupting these oppressive norms and how we relate to power is always something to reflect on when taking up spacetime in such a public place . The open dissent and getting mad at overregulation becomes its own liberatory performative practice. I haven’t a clue as to how my public response to such micro aggressions may ripple on and affect or influence future dissent against such silencing established uniformity. Others like the young man empathized and tapped into my rage. That is powerful!
But even at the time shortly after the incident on the second bus, I had actually second guessed my actions. Apologizing to my comrades. Thinking I may have overstepped my bounds or acted out without fair check ins with our group. But we embraced each other, debriefed on the experience and they assured me that acting up in this instance was justified and that what ever negative outcome that had or could’ve come about was rooted in the bus driver’s over reaction in resorting to calling the sheriffs over some damned, yet nourishing, pumpkin seeds.
Get free. Get mad. Get hungry for dissent.